NHSreality does NOT feel the money matters. More the philosophy and principles behind a health service trying to provide equitable care in The Information Age. Rationing being inevitable, is it best for it to to be overt or covert?
Will David Cameron sign the NHS’s prescription for cash injections rising to £8 billion in extra funding to meet the growing demands on the health service? It’s a question to which Ed Miliband would dearly love to know the answer, and one that could shape the outcome of the election.
George Obsorne signed off the first year of the extra funding demanded by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, last December in the autumn statement. The chancellor described the £2 billion as a down-payment on the full £30 billion cost over the five years of the next Parliament that Mr Cameron has hinted heavily a Tory government would pay in full.
And yet last week’s budget, full of measures to neutralise Labour’s campaign attacks, was silent on Mr Miliband’s biggest weapon of all — the charge that the NHS isn’t safe with the Tories. Treasury sources admit that the row with Tory MPs over whether to commit 2 per cent of GDP on defence spending made a pledge to give the NHS above-inflation funding difficult.
Labour strategists say the benefits for the Conservatives of funding the Stevens plan would be limited because they were so little trusted by voters. “The Tories’ problem for the NHS is that they aren’t believed on the issue, turning up late to the party with a huge pile of cash doesn’t really help all that much,” one said.
But finding an extra £30 billion for the NHS has other attractions for the Tories. It would force Labour to find a similar sum — putting the spotlight back on Mr Miliband’s vulnerable area, his perceived fiscal irresponsibility.
With a big announcement expected, the chances remain high, therefore, that Mr Cameron will indeed commit to extra NHS funding and challenge the Labour leader to match the commitment and say how he would pay for it.
Francis Elliott is Political Editor